Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Senator Sterle's kind comments with respect to two of my predecessors from the state of Queensland, namely the great senator Ron Boswell and senator Barry O'Sullivan. I absolutely agree with Senator Sterle's reflections on those two gentlemen—that they were absolutely fearless and resolute defenders of regional Australia, and whilst they were in this place they did all they could reasonably do to promote the health of the regions. I was actually thinking of former senator Ron Boswell on the Friday before last, when I was celebrating the Lunar New Year with the great Vietnamese community in Queensland at the Tet Festival. Former senator Ron Boswell had an extremely affectionate relationship with the Vietnamese community in Queensland, and I am certainly doing my best to continue that great tradition.
Senator Sterle made some comments in relation to the JobMaker hiring credit. He ran the example—and it has been run a few times—that there are all these employers out there looking to sack employees who are perhaps earning $75,000 a year and replace them with three junior employees, using the JobMaker hiring credit. I will say this to Senator Sterle: first, certainly from my experience in the private sector, if an employer has a valued employee, the last thing they want to do is to lose that employee. That is really the best check and balance of all—the fact that employers are seeking quality employees. The second point I would make to Senator Sterle is that there are a number of checks and balances in the system to ensure that employers can't rort the system, and that includes checks and balances which the ATO will run with respect to companies' aggregate payrolls to ensure that those new employees the employer is claiming the JobMaker hiring credit for are additional employees. They are not replacement employees—they are not employees replacing long-term senior employees; they are additional employees. The third point I would make with respect to Senator Sterle's commentary on the JobMaker hiring credit is that all the usual employee protections continue to apply, and that includes Australia's very tight unfair dismissal laws. So let's see what happens.
I'm actually extremely positive about the JobMaker hiring credit. I graduated from university in 1992 into the recession we had to have—
Senator Dean Smith interjecting—
And Senator Smith said, 'Me too.' I'm happy to be in that corner with you, Senator Smith. It was extremely difficult for people my age to obtain jobs at that point in time. I certainly had friends who struggled for a number of years to enter into the employment sphere. So I think the JobMaker hiring credit is an extremely positive program. It will cost up to $4 billion, and Treasury has estimated that it will generate up to 450,000 jobs. If employers do the wrong thing, I certainly support the notion that the Australian Taxation Office and the regulators should hold them to account. I think the Australian people expect nothing less.
I will deal with Senator Kim Carr's contribution to this debate next. When Senator Carr speaks, I always listen to him very carefully. I serve with him on a number of committees and I have great regard for his views on a range of subjects. With respect to Senator Carr's reflections on companies that received the JobKeeper payment and then announced great profits, I will put it this way: I have a great deal of respect for those companies that received the JobKeeper payment and then, after considering their circumstances over 12 months, decided to repay amounts to the Commonwealth government. I think that was the entirely appropriate thing to do. I applaud those companies. I think they have earned their social licence in our civic community. I think all companies in that situation should carefully reflect upon what the right thing to do is. Does any of that reflect on the success of the JobKeeper program? Absolutely not. It has been an outstanding success. That should be acknowledged from representatives on all sides of this chamber. It's a great thing that over 728,500 employees in Queensland received payments. (Time expired)